Trainee Doctor Workforce (Update)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 25th January 2023.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

6. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on Scotland’s trainee doctor workforce. (S6O-01817)

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Trainee doctors account for approximately 42 per cent of doctors in hospitals, so they play a major role in service delivery. I am grateful to them for all the work that they have done, particularly during the past few years. The number of doctors in training is up by more than 24 per cent—or 1,295.6 whole-time equivalents—under this Government.

The recruitment of trainee doctors in 2022 was the most successful to date, with 1,073 posts being filled. More broadly, we are continuing to implement the recommendations that formed part of the 48-hour maximum working week—without averaging—for junior doctors from the Scotland expert working group’s report.

Photo of Collette Stevenson Collette Stevenson Scottish National Party

In 2011, junior doctor Lauren Connelly from East Kilbride tragically died while driving home from work. Since then, her father, Brian Connelly, has campaigned to reduce junior doctors’ working hours to make them safe. I am grateful to Humza Yousaf for meeting us last year.

Can the health secretary provide an update on the work that is being done to make the working hours of junior doctors safe? Does he agree with Mr Connelly and me that junior doctors should have a maximum 48-hour working week without averaging, which the First Minister committed to work towards in 2017?

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank Collette Stevenson for asking such an important question. I once again pay tribute to Brian Connelly for continuing to campaign tirelessly to improve working conditions for the medical workforce. He has gone through the most unimaginable tragedy, but he makes sure that he campaigns day in, day out by advocating with his local MSP or directly with Government to ensure that working conditions are improved for the medical workforce.

During the past year, the Scottish Government has worked in partnership with junior doctors and employers to restrict consecutive days of long shifts—those that are longer than 10 hours—to four in any seven days for junior doctors. Progress continues to be made on implementing the broader recommendations of the expert group, including on improvements to facilities, rota design and staff governance.

In respect of the specific question on a 48-hour working week, without averaging, for junior doctors, I remain committed to pursuing that goal, as does the Government. I say to Collette Stevenson that we are seeking to address the longer-term issue. Achieving a 48-hour working week is a process that requires careful consideration to ensure that we get it right and make lasting improvements for the working conditions of our junior doctor workforce.

Photo of Paul Sweeney Paul Sweeney Labour

I am grateful to the cabinet secretary for sharing those details on trainee doctors in Scotland, but he will know that Australia and New Zealand are carrying out extensive marketing and recruitment campaigns that are targeted at trainee doctors who work in Scotland’s national health service. That is exacerbated by a lack of available specialist training posts and general burn-out due to high working hours. Can he advise us what proactive steps the Government is taking to retain those doctors once they have completed their foundation training? Why does he think they are being seen as such an easy target?

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Please be as brief as possible, cabinet secretary.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

What can I say? Paul Sweeney is of course right to raise the issue. First and foremost, we are making sure that we are creating the necessary training places for our trainee doctors here. We have increased them by an additional 725 places; 152 were agreed recently and will be recruited to this year. We will also seek to try to make the improvements that I outlined to Collette Stevenson so that their working conditions are improved, which I think will help to retain them.

On top of that, we will continue to discuss with junior doctors and the medical workforce more generally what we can do around pay and pensions to make sure that we retain those doctors in Scotland as opposed to losing them elsewhere.